Preparing for the Alternative Clothes Show

IMG_0245I’m taking part in the Alternative Clothes Show in Hornsey, London at the weekend- My first show for a while so I’m hard at work with felt and embroidery.  In the spirit of the show I’ve been working on a range of necklaces using upcycled beads from the local charity shops and my own embroidered felt.  I’ve also put the polystyrene hat blocks I carved last June in a course with Jane Smith to use making a couple of felt toques.

It’s now the final push to the line finishing the final pieces, and gathering supplies for  dressing the stall (and my self as I agreed to model some handmade felt in their fashion show!)

Embroidery endings

I have just completed my lunchtime embroidery project – something started last October as a project to work on in my lunchbreaks. I did the front cover intending it for Embroidery front covera small square sketchbook when it was finished.

Once I came to the end of that side I invented a back cover which was a shadow version of the front design in running stitch.  I now think I almost prefer the second version.  I have been reading about Japanese ways of embelishing, joining and strengthening cloth.  Often a practical measure when material is in short supply but  often very beautiful in its own right.

Back Cover

Now I’m finished and I have to find a new project for my lunch breaks as I miss it already…. I am considering either Pansies or Bees…. watch this space.

Useful and Beautiful

I have long been in agreement with the famous William Morris quote:

‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’ William Morris lecture ‘The Beauty of Life’, 1880

I love the fact that he doesn’t necessarily expect things to be both. He allows for ‘unnecessary’ beauty and personal taste and doesn’t say that everyone else should think something is beautiful – only that you should…

I recently saw this on the National Portrait Gallery website (where they are currently having a Morris Exhibition.)

‘Nothing which is made by man will be ugly, but will have its due form, and its due ornament, and will tell the tale of its making and the tale of its use’.  William Morris article ‘Art’, 1891

I assume, given that it is Morris writing, that he is referring to handmade objects. ( Although I question his assertion of man’s inability to make anything ugly, but once again I suppose he is allowing for personal taste).  I like the idea that an object shows the tale of its making and use.

As I have written here before I believe that making something slowly and by hand provides a wonderful contrast to the speed and machine led nature of modern life. It is the reason that I can be found escaping from the computer and stitching quietly and slowly during many of my lunch breaks.

I am currently re reading poet and novelist May Sarton’s ‘Journal of a Solitude’ first published in 1973 and came across this:

‘It is troubling how many people expect applause, recognition, when they have not even begun to learn an art or craft. Instant success is the order of the day; ‘I want it now!’ I wonder if this is not part of our corruption by machines. Machines do things very quickly and outside the natural rhythm of life….So the few things that we still do, such as cooking, knitting, gardening, anything at all that cannot be hurried, have a very particular value.’

Goodness knows what she would have thought of today’s world, but the quote seems even more pertinent now….

Autumnal Embroidery

I was coming to the end of embroidering my hydrangea journal cover last month just before I went on holiday, and so I rushed together an appropriately autumnal design of acorns and oak leaves to take away using the lovely new silk chiffons I bought over the summer from Wolknoll. ( I am hoping that by the time the embroidery is finished no one will be able to see the strand of hair I caught between the backing and the chiffon when I was bondawebbing it on!! The perils of doing things at the last minute.) DSCF8262

It will become a protective outside cover which has elastic down the inside centre. Then I can slip sheets of folded cartridge paper in, scribble notes about a project while I am on the move, and remove them to somewhere more permanent if I want to keep them.

The Scotsman and I have a house currently covered in some rather spectacular scaffolding, and are waiting for the weather to stay dry enough for the roofers to take our roof off and replace it with a new one in Spanish slate. Feltmaking has been put on hold as my studio is in the roof and everything is packed away stacked up and covered in dustsheets. When the roof is completed it will no longer have a leak (hurrah), and the room will have gained more light as we are adding a new skylight. It also means we can decorate and add better storage…

In the meantime I have my millinery course and the embroidery to keep me ticking over as I doubt I could find anything in a hurry in there.

Goodbye to East Finchley

On Thursday I went to the last Creative Embroidery evening class for this academic year. I won’t be going to the class in September as I’m signed up to do Contemporary Millinery at Morley College for at least the Autumn Term. With a full time job two evening classes a week is a step too far!

I shall miss it. I’ve learnt a lot, but really what I will miss most is sitting round a table with a group of women quietly stitching and listening to the highs and lows of other people’s lives – lives which are often very different from mine. There have been deaths and births, illness, holidays and work issues – and along the way a lot of very beautiful and skilled stitching has emerged.

I’ve included the two main pieces I’ve worked on over the last two years here as they never appeared in this blog in their finished state. Velvet stitch nearly killed me at one point…. 20140716-074145-27705321.jpg

 and I confirmed my love of the French knot with my tribute to Gustav Klimpt….

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I can’t say definitely that I’ll be back next year as heading off into the depths of East Finchley every week isn’t my favourite thing in the world. But I may….

Learning to Layer

I’ve been working on my hydrangea embroidery quietly – mostly in my lunch breaks at work. Trying to decide how to draw / paint in stitch I’ve been experimenting with layering simple stitches. The first layer of small running stitches was inspired by looking at the amazing Japanese cloths in the recent Boro exhibition at Somerset House.

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On top of that I’ve put single strands of purple and French knots. It seems to be working rather well even if I am making it up as I go along!!

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Ps I can’t believe it’s only a week since I got back from Portugal ….. Seems like a world away…..

Peacocks and a leap out of my comfort zone

In an attempt to master the dreaded sewing machine I am making my latest project in my embroidery class at least partially machined….so I am constructing my own ‘fabric’ using disolveable material and machine threads.  It is to be a peacock like this (although with different colouring – not sure where this came from in my drawing..)

Peacock Design full

So there I was last night teeth gritted, trying to remember to breathe, and hoping that I could get through what I needed to do quickly and without tangling myself up too many times. 

‘You’re going too fast!’ said Isobel, which apparently explained the strange loopy quality on the back on the stitching.  Although it doesn’t really matter for what I want.  The embroidery will be constructed in several layers – as below:

Peacock layers

Peacock layers

I started on the yellow piece yesterday – the amount of machine stitching I will end up with is debatable and may depend whether I stop wanting to throw the machine out of the window!!  Roll on hand sewing…. !

I keep telling myself it is a useful tool if I can master it so for the moment I persevere….